I’ve not blogged for a while because although I’ve had a lot on my mind, it was nothing I was ready to write about. Now I’m ready and I’m gonna share with you something really personal. Ten weeks ago I did something really drastic…
I had weight loss surgery.
When I told people I was going to have it done the most common reaction was that they thought I was mental. They said I wasn’t big enough. Surely that’s only a last resort for huge people… Why didn’t I try diet and exercise? Why didn’t I go to weight watchers? Why not join a gym again? Was I really sure? Oh, and I’m bonkers to let them take most of a perfectly good organ out of me.
Well, I might be bonkers but yes I was sure. That organ, my stomach, was working too well! I knew I was on a downhill ride to serious obesity and couldn’t stop myself without help. I’d given up smoking and the manchild had moved back home with all his accompanying baggage, I split up with my ex and life just generally got hard. I didn’t have cigarettes to fall back on and so I turned to comfort eating more than ever to get me through and the weight piled back on. If I was able to diet and exercise and succeed permanently I would have done it already and so would every other fat person wanting to lose weight. Diet and exercise is a physical fix that just doesn’t work on a permanent level when the reason people get fat is an emotional one. You can lose the weight but it just comes back.
Every time I walked out that front door, I wanted to be invisible. I never made eye contact with anyone while I was outside. I wanted a star trek transporter to get to work so nobody would have to look at me. Even though I wasn’t massive, I was ashamed of how big I’d let myself get. I stopped going out unless I had to. If I got invited to social events I found reasons not to go. The real reason was that I was embarrassed to be seen in public because I felt ugly and I felt like I was being judged. In my head I knew that nobody was judging me except me but I still felt ashamed. It’s hurtful when your friends, who in reality have lovely figures, go on about how fat they are. I’m double your size and you’re disgusted by your own tiny bit of fat? How gross do I feel now?! Is it any wonder I felt judged? It just increased how crappy I felt about myself.
Not everyone is capable of understanding how it feels to hate the way you look so much that you’d rather sit indoors with the tv than spend time with other people. It sounds like vanity but it’s much deeper than that. It’s soul destroying.
So last year I talked to my doctor who agreed that my BMI was far too high and agreed to refer me. The next step was an appointment at a London hospital to talk to the surgeon. He said I was a perfect candidate for it and agreed to let me have it done on the NHS. I had no co-morbidities and I was young enough for the effects to make a real difference to the rest of my life. (Nice to be perfect for something! Ha!)
Some of you who know me and are finding out about this right now will possibly also think I wasn’t big enough to need it but I was 8 stone overweight. That’s a lot of extra weight to carry around when you’re only 5 ft 3 n a half inches tall. My bones started to hurt. Walking from the train station to my flat takes 7 minutes and none of it is uphill apart from the stairs in my building… but before I even reached home I would be limping from a sore ankle and having to rub DeepHeat ointment on my back when I got home just so I could move around. Getting off the sofa was getting harder. I couldn’t breathe when I leant over to tie my laces. I felt like a beach ball. I was miserable.
So I did it! I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) which means that the surgeon removed about 90% of my stomach. I haven’t told everybody because it’s not exactly a ‘shout from the rooftops’ kinda thing and it’s a very personal decision but I’m also not ashamed of having it done and I’m happy to talk about it. It really has been life changing already.
It hasn’t been easy though. For anyone thinking I took the easy option, that is so not the case. This is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The mental journey you go on when you do something like this is a roller coaster. There have been a few times over the past few weeks where it’s been really hard and I’ve asked myself if I did the right thing? Was it really that bad that I had to resort to major surgery? Yes is the short answer.
Most of the difficult times are about head hunger. I miss eating a normal dinner. You still crave the stuff you used to love and you have to learn that it’s not your stomach that’s hungry; it’s your head, your memories. I’m still learning what’s what and how to combat it effectively.
I still have to watch what I eat, more so now than ever. I could eat chocolate and all the things that I ate before and I’d lose nothing despite having the surgery because it’s not a quick fix. It’s a tool and I can use it or not. The weight doesn’t just fall off unless I make it happen with the tool I’ve been given. I don’t deprive myself of every little thing but I’m much more aware of what my body needs to keep me going. When you only have a tiny space for food, what goes into it is really important. I have to get enough protein in before anything else. If I use up my space on crap all the time, I’ll end up malnourished and sick. Christmas dinner will be a challenge but it’s nothing I can’t manage. I’ll just have to pick out the best bits and leave the rest!
I wasn’t sure whether to tell people or not because everyone has opinions about weight loss surgery and who’s deserving of NHS funds and I didn’t want to justify myself to anyone, plus I know that every time I put a biscuit near my face or pick up a chocolate, I’ll have the food police commenting on it… but I just thought sod it. Anyone who wants to judge me can go right ahead. The money I would have eventually cost the NHS as an overweight woman and all the problems that come with that would have far exceeded what the surgery cost. They’ve saved tens of thousands, probably more. The NHS knows that.
I did what was right for me and it’s working. I’ve lost weight already and I’m starting to feel more like myself again! I’ve still got a long way to go on this roller coaster journey but I’m joining the gym again in a few days and I’m looking forward to meeting the new healthier, slimmer, happier me next year.